Two years after health authorities warned of a potential link between gastroenteritis and Tasmanian oysters, the Australian oyster industry has taken a collective sigh of relief.
Thanks to a study published by the South Australian Research Development Institute (SARDI), comprehensive tests have just given our oysters a clean bill of health.
Concerns were initially raised that the oysters were contaminated with dangerous viruses, such as Hepatitis A and Norovirus. According to the study, whether oysters are at threat of contamination depends largely on whether human waste is polluting waters.
The Gastro Study
The SARDI research is the first survey to look at the presence of viral contamination in the water of Australia's commercial oyster farms. It sought to determine whether these two foodborne viruses, responsible for causing gastroenteritis, were commonly present in Australian oysters.
An evaluation of three hundred samples was conducted by molecular biologist, Dr. Valeria Torok, within the innovation and food safety laboratories of SARDI. These samples were sourced from each of the oyster production areas in Australia and tested under standards recognised by international food safety authorities.
Of the three hundred samples collected and examined for evidence of Hepatitis A and Norovirus, no positive samples were detected.
Enteric Viruses and Illness
Enteric viruses are believed to be the most common cause of gastroenteritis worldwide. They are typically spread from one human to another but they can also contaminate food. These viruses can be found at dangerous levels in foods that haven’t been properly processed or cooked and if ingested, can lead to severe illness.
Avoiding foodborne illnesses, like the ones examined in this study, is one of the main reasons that all food handlers must properly practise food safety. By not storing, cooking or reheating food at the right temperature, food handlers are exposing themselves and others to a multitude of potential illnesses.
Knowing how to properly handle high-risk foods, like oysters, is a must; including how to avoid cross-contamination. Maintaining a clean workspace is also essential when handling food, as is ensuring that you maintain good personal hygiene and properly wash your hands.
For more everyday food safety tips on how to keep your food safe – check out this useful resource.